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Montreal > Travel Guide > About Montreal > History of Montreal

Montreal, an island located in the Saint Lawrence River, was originally inhabited by the Iroquois who had lived in Quebec for thousands of years. In 1535, Jacques Cartier (an explorer from France) was among the first Europeans to set foot on the island.

He and his men climbed up the mountain to place a cross and claim the land in the name of France. Cartier named the mountain "Mont-Royal". In the early 1600's, the French colonized the island and the city of Montreal (originally named Ville Marie) was founded.
After the defeat of the French colonists by the British, Montreal was later occupied and administered by Great Britain. The British did not expel the French from the island but allowed them to continue to live there as subjects of the British Empire.

Colonists from England, Scotland and Ireland subsequently arrived afterwards to live alongside the French. Despite being conquered by the British, French Montrealers continued to flourish. English, Scots and Irish settlers intermarried with the French. Many French Montrealers on the island today still have the last name of a British ancestor (ie: Blackburn, Richard, O'Brien....).

Some of these last names have also been French-ized (ex: O'Briens are now mostly called Brien and have dropped the O). A large number of English speaking Montrealers also have French last names.

Over the 3 centuries since Montreal's original foundation, settlements and towns were established in many different areas of the island. Immigrants from many other parts of the world also moved onto the island. These towns and their populations had continued to grow right up to the present day. 

In order to reduce city deficits and balance budgets, the government of Quebec (under the control of the Parti Quebecois) passed legislation in 2001 to merge a number of cities and towns in the province of Quebec. As a result, on January 1st, 2002 the suburb towns on the island of Montreal were forced to become boroughs and merge with the city of Montreal.

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